There is an interesting Chinese proverb that says, “may you live in interesting times”. It is normally intended for someone that you dislike, but I have no doubt that it is one of the most apt descriptions for all of us, as we have lived and are currently experiencing an unprecedented event in world history – in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, or Covid-19 as many refer to it. There was a logo on a T-shirt this past week that said this: Never underestimate a Priest who survived live streaming, empty pews and the 2020 pandemic! Tongue firmly in cheek aside…
It has stretched us beyond our normal ministry challenges, including having to become equipped and adept at putting our sermons and eucharistic services via Youtube, Whatsapp and other media channels to reach parishioners and beyond. Do you know that we have had people from the USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Cyprus, UAE, India, Australia and New Zealand who have dialled into our services, giving us a reach way beyond the four walls of the church.
Over the past year there were times when the church was shut, then limited to a certain number of people attending with strict restrictions in place, and later house churches were allowed to restart.
In that time, we have managed here at St John’s to stay connected as best we can. Thank goodness for our Be Connected ambassador group that allowed us to persevere in love and good deeds …
Using WhatsApps, Youtube and phonecalls to continue to allow us to do ministry. Lack of face-to-face contact, if we all admit it, is probably what we have missed most. But I hope that you have in some way still felt connect to the Vine. The St John’s Vine. The Vine of the Father.
With all these new distractions what few have realised is that this is the 140th year of St John’s existence. I know – during pandemics these milestone moments seem to get little airplay. But let’s acknowledge for ourselves, those who have gone before us and those who are yet to come, that God has been faithful and blessed this part of His Vineyard over that time.
I always love the stories from some of our older parishioners like Bobby MacKay and Val Fowler who were connected here since they were children. What a wonderful legacy and a kind of “Memory Stone” for us in bricks and mortar that God is faithful.
The programme next month will include a visit by Bishop Eddie for our patronal festival, confirmations, the re-launch of the Wonderbox Recipe Book and a St John’s history that is being compiled by Alan Montgomery – including a list of all those buried on site.
As I have shared with you often enough, St John’s is in my DNA, having come to saving faith here more than 25 years ago during an Alpha Holy Spirit weekend. It has been an extreme privilege to start out as a pew warmer and end up as rector – few, I am sure, have had that blessing.
So it is with the proverbial mixed feelings – the paradox – that I take leave of you in 3 months’ hence to pursue an international opportunity as Senior Priest at the Church of the Epiphany in Doha. You have allowed me into your home and hearts – hopefully you have attended at least one service during the past 7 years – and so there is a connection. Debbie and I will be sad when we depart soon – but also know that it is definitely not goodbye, but rather auf wiedersehn, until we meet again.
I quote the St Francis Drake prayer, that Bishop Eric shared at a Celtic Retreat a few years ago, pre-lockdown:
Disturb us, Lord, when We are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true Because we have dreamed too little, When we arrived safely Because we sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst For the waters of life; Having fallen in love with life, We have ceased to dream of eternity And in our efforts to build a new earth, We have allowed our vision Of the new Heaven to dim. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas Where storms will show your mastery; Where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes; And to push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love. AMEN
Sometimes we need to push out from the shore of our comfort zones and experience new people and geographies in our calling. It is never easy. But we also know that we are not alone.
To all of you, those who have encouraged us, spoiled us and even took time to sit under my teaching, thank you. Don’t drop the ball. You are in good hands with Rob Penrith waiting in the sidelines to become the caretaker rector. And I know that you will all continue to go from strength to strength. And we will be there, along with the cloud of witnesses, the former saints for St John’s, urging you all to finish the race.
To those who have stood at my right hand during this time, my ministry staff Michelle, Debbie, Jane, Petro and Andrew, and all the retired clergy, my admin staff, Rose and Allan Anderson, Heather Tiltmann, and all the others in the support staff like Vicky, Pinkie, Lumka, Lizzie and until recently Charles, we have make quite a team. To Rod and Tim who were churchwardens when I arrived and will be remaining as captains to navigate you through the next period – Hats Off. To Jane and Renee who have looked after the books and kept us all honest – bravo! To the countless volunteers in this church, from the flowers to folding pew leaflets to singing to being on the door even during Covid to keeping us fed and watered – to those who serve faithfully on parish council — it has been a journey that we will never forget. It was always my vision that St John’s would be the best Anglican church between Cape Town and Durban – but maybe I should have chosen from PE to Cairo.
To Debbie who has joined me on this spiritual journey – never for once thinking that this is where our journey would lead us – thanks for your support and being my sounding board.
To all of you here tonight! Thank you and God bless you!
Dean Mark Derry
So, it’s loadshedding in South Africa again.
Here is something to consider today:
by Mike Burnard
1Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
To a large extent gratitude depends on our level of comparison. If we compare South Africa upwards to the USA or Europe, we will soon embark on a road of complaining, criticizing and displeasure that ultimately ends up in the destination of despair. This will inevitably lead to bitterness
But the opposite is also true. If we compare ourselves with reality; with the average person in the world, we find that we actually have much to be grateful for. Not all energy is consumed equally across the globe with one in every six people in the world – an estimated 1.2 billion people — having little or no access to electricity.
In Africa the situation is even worse. The latest World Energy Outlook reports that more than one out of two – 55% of Africa – has little or no access to electricity. In South Africa one in every five people – 20% of the population – are not able to access the full range of electricity services. For them loadshedding would be a blessing in the sense that they would at least have electricity during some hours of the day.
So, if we have access to electricity, albeit not for 24 hours every day, we are still in the top half of the fortunate people in Africa.
Does that mean we have to settle for corruption and inefficiency?
Of course not, but it does mean we still need to be grateful for having what most Africans only dream of having. We should never confuse expectations with grace.
Gratitude is the ability to view what we have as grace and then turn what we have into enough.
Congratulations to our new Parish Council:
Rod Philip, Tim Douglas-Jones, Renee Whittal, Rachelle Bakker, Mary-Lou Emslie, Carla Stindt, Phillip Robinson, Nicky Willemse, Lance Shortt, Susan Simpson, Nizam Kader, Hebe Usher, Jane Purchase.
Do you want to go deeper into studying God’s Word but don’t want to register for a formal qualification?
We are doing a survey to find out who will be interested in doing an 8 session lecture in the next few months on a week night.
It would take participants through the Apostle’s Creed to give a basic theological framework for a biblical studies foundation. This would be followed by an Introduction to the Bible: Hearing God speak.
The cost will be minimal and is not restricted to St John’s parishioners and you may invite other interested persons. Please email Mark Derry if you are interested (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sincere condolences to the family and friends of Sheila Todd, who passed away this week. Please keep them in your prayers.
School holidays – See you next term!
Lockdown prayers every Thursday @ 2:30pm. All welcome!
Please contact Andrew (083 546 2451) for the Zoom link.
We would appreciate it if you could deposit your dedicated giving contributions via EFT into our bank acount:
Branch Code: 050417
A/C Name: St John the Baptist Church
A/C Number: 080281206
(Please make sure your number & reference is included)
Contact Allan at email@example.com if you do not have a pledge number.
Please be aware that the recycling area is currently closed until further notice.
Tinky Hodgson is looking for a garden cottage/flatlet needed for her son. Preferably in the Walmer area. Ideally from 1 July, but will be interested if there is something available earlier or in the few of months. Please contact Tinky on 084 445 4003.